Every time I dust off my Dreamcast, I find it such a shame that the system bit the very dust I’m wiping off. If only Sega had looked ahead and included DVD support, the Dreamcast could have been a great contender against the PS2. It really is a powerful little system that delivered games that were visually stunning compared to its previous competition, the PS1. And the big arcade stick I bought for my Dreamcast both blows away the clunky controller that comes with the system and is the only way to play arcade ports, such as Zombie Revenge, with any kind of authenticity.
Actually, Zombie Revenge is the very reason I picked up a used Dreamcast. I am a huge fan of the House of the Dead games (it’s a spinoff of that series) and I like to collect ports of arcade games as well (Zombie Revenge never got ported to any other system). It’s essentially a third person version of that light gun series, making it somewhat of a shoot ‘em up version of Resident Evil—minus the scares, tense atmosphere, and puzzles. Which kinda means, other than being a third person game featuring detailed environments and zombies, it’s nothing like Resident Evil.
Even though you’re sitting your fat arse on a couch now while playing, Zombie Revenge is still nothing more than a time killing, money grubbing arcade game. There are no alterations in the home version to make it more engrossing—the Dreamcast version offers an ‘original’ mode that adds some bonuses not in the ‘arcade’ version—stupid crap like different costumes, but that’s it. It’s like the home version is also designed to eat up quarters even though you only have to spend money on it when you buy the dang disc!
Everything about the game is clumsy (for the player). You get a handgun that you’ll have to rely on most because zombies drop plenty of bullets for it, but it takes dozens of shots to kill one zombie! You know—waste a round on zombie, pick up a round he drops to kill next zombie! Try switching auto aim from one zombie to a zombie that’s closer to you and you usually find you’re not shooting anything—and now being clobbered by both zombies. And to top it off, these are gun toting zombies, so at least one of them is guaranteed to blow a hole in YOUR head. What you have here is a bunch of thugs who really need to use some Proactiv—so the fear of being bitten is non-existent and you never get that splattering satisfaction you do when killing the undead in traditional zombie games.
There are some other guns to pick up—shotgun, machine gun, etc. , but they only have so many bullets in them and then they are completely disposable! That’s right, you can’t pick up extra bullets for them and you can’t even hold on to them for later use for a boss battle—the fricking gun is ripped from your hands as soon as it runs out of bullets or you enter a new area. You’ll never have anything other than a handgun and hand-to-hand combat to fight bosses. BOSSES! The hand-to-hand combat is where arcade fighting game techniques come in—you know, BUTTON MASHING. Just pound on random buttons and watch your guy do these cool fighting moves that you can’t intentionally duplicate, hoping that, you know, you win.
Note that aside from dying at the hands (or guns) of zombies, you can also die if your time runs out. That’s right, you can’t even enjoy exploring or picking up items. As soon as you clear all zombies from an area (which you have to do before you can leave the area), a blue panic arrow urges you to follow it while a short-lived timer counts down at the top of the screen! Meanwhile, all the zombies you just cleared out have dropped guns, bullets and health, forcing you to leave it all there lest your time is up!
If you haven’t unlocked ‘free play’ (which is done by playing a mini-game on that annoying VMU memory card that has graphics of 1976 Pong quality), chances are you’ll never get through the game to see the last chapter! Of course, you could simply download someone else’s save with unlocked free play mode from the internet, like I did (insert smiley face here…). The boss battles alone require loads of continues. Again showing its hunger for quarters, the game has ridiculous boss battles—you shoot at them, you easily figure out their attacks and how you can avoid them—but your character moves SO slow that no matter what, you’re going to get hit by the boss’s attack! Where is the skill in that???
Another obvious sign that this is an arcade game is that it’s repetitious—kill all zombies from one section, move on to the next and do it all over again, following a completely linear path (heck, even being confined to a maze, Ms. Pac Man’s path wasn’t linear!). There is no saving, so you either stay alive or die and start the game all over again! Maybe that should have been the ONE thing the Dreamcast version offered—a save function so you could pick up where you left off. Either that or, you know, give us the damn free play mode from the start! Who the hell ever played those dumb mini-games on the VMU card anyway (other than the guy whose save I downloaded from the internet)?
The best part of Zombie Revenge has to be when you enter the House of the Dead, because if you played the original light gun game enough, you actually recognize the areas as well as the enemies (actual brain eating zombies), all designed now in third person! The real disappointment is that the chapter doesn’t last that long, so you don’t even get to explore the entire house. Maybe THAT should have been an addition to this home version. Perhaps they should have actually designed a bonus mode that was Zombie Revenge taking place entirely in the House of the Dead! And they could bring back all the cheesy dialogue from House of the Dead, like the classic that makes you laugh like an adolescent boy every time, the female girl crying, “Don’t come! Don’t come!”